Originally developed by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale, based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy combines the traditional interventions of cognitive behavioral therapy with meditative practices grounded in the concept of mindfulness. The goal in developing MBCT was to provide a more effective tool for those experiencing relapses in major depressive disorder. Today it is used to address recurring bouts of depression or chronic unhappiness in patients.

How MBCT Helps Chronic Depression

MBCT is effective with chronic depression because of the incorporation of mindfulness. This practice allows the patient to identify the patterns in their mind more effectively. It can also help patients become more adept at recognizing when their mood is ready to shift. This allows patients to stop a downward spiral toward depression before it even begins. Additionally, mindfulness can aid patients in seeing the bigger picture and maintaining a healthier perspective on life.

Therapists will turn to MBCT when alternative such as CBT have not been effective in staving off relapses. While these two modalities have much in common, MBCT with its focus on being can be more successful in engendering long-term changes in a depressed patient.


What to Expect in a MBCT Treatment Session

MBCT is practiced via group work and individual work done at home. An MBCT course of treatment involves eight weekly meetings as a group that last two hours each. Participants also meet for an all-day session between weeks five and seven.

Group work can include a number of MBCT techniques including the 3-minute breathing space technique. Participants take one minute to do each of the following:

  • Observe their experience
  • Center on their breath
  • Attend to their bodies

Each participant then focuses on their central work at home in between these group sessions. This work involves doing guided meditations. The overall goal of MBCT is to help the individual get to know their own minds and begin to recognize when they are defaulting to established negative patterns. The individual can then choose to release these old ways and embrace a new way of being, based in mindfulness.